1:Where does he live?

2:Where do you come from?

I am confused when I should add a preposition after a verb. “Where” is an adv, so in sentence one, there is not a preposition after “live”. However, in sentence two, there is “from” after “come”. Could you explain the reason?

I also have another pair of sentences:

1:When can you come?

2:What time will you be coming?

I can understand that in sentence one, “when” is an adv, so there is not a preposition after “come”. How about sentence two? Is “what time” served as an adv? If not, why “coming” is not followed by "at"?

Thank you very much!

  • I think it's worth noting that one subtle difference between the two sentences in the second set is that "what time will you be coming" presupposes that the person will be coming, that concrete plans have been made and the asker is merely missing information about the timing (and it can sometimes subtly suggest that the audience has no other choice, e.g. a tone to use when the audience frequently misses appointments). On the other hand, "when can you come" suggests that plans are in the progress of being made, rather than a request for missing information, and that the time can be flexible.
    – Jason C
    Jul 18 '14 at 16:24
  • I.e. "When can you come?" = "When do you have the ability to arrive here? What possible time could you be here?" where "What time will you be coming?" = "You have already determined when you will be here, I'd like to know when that will be."
    – Jason C
    Jul 18 '14 at 16:26

The difference here is semantic rather than grammatical. I mean, "from" is there to identify the specific meaning of "come" in context. It is not required for a grammatical reason related to the sentence pattern itself.

As you probably know, "come" is a versatile word with a lot of meanings, depending on the preposition. In addition to:

  1. Where do you come from?

You can also have:

  1. Where do you come out? [If you crawl into this tunnel, where will you be when you emerge?]
  2. Where did he come across the body? [Where was he when he found the body?]
  3. Where does this road come through? [There are lots of roads in this forest and I want to know where this one exits the forest]
  4. Where did he come into his fortune? [Did he get rich on a trading voyage to India?]
  5. Where do you come? [Note: "come" with no preposition can, in some contexts, mean 'reach sexual climax'. This sentence is grammatical and would be understood, but probably is not what you want to say!]

"From" is there because "to come from" a place is different from "to come to" a place, or any of the other variations above.

For your second question, the sentence patterns:

  1. When can you [verb]
  2. What time will you [verb]

do not usually require a preposition. (Also "come" in these sentences, without a preposition and without some other context, would be understood to mean either "arrive at my location" or "attend a social event"--no worries about innuendo there).

You will see speakers of certain American dialects use "at" at the end of those patterns, like "What time will you come at?" This is casual, nonstandard phrasing; it's preferred not to use it in formal standard American English. (It's just the speaker taking the "at" from the expected reply--"I will come at 11"--and putting it on the question.)

  • Gutter-minded readers such as my self can certainly find innuendo in the second set, but it is not as readily interpreted that way as #5 in the first set, which has almost no other immediate interpretation (aside from trusting that it wouldn't make sense given context). As sad as it is, I was self-trained growing up to say "When will you be here" rather than "When will you come" just to avoid the inevitable irritating pun from my raunchier friends. Webster's, at least, lists the vulgar definition.
    – Jason C
    Jul 18 '14 at 16:16

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